Tuesday, February 9, 2016

May 18, 1922: Charles Atkins

Today we learn about a lynching in Georgia through the pages of The Broad Ax (Salt Lake City, Utah) dated May 27, 1922:


Davisboro, Ga.—Charles Atkins, 15, colored, one of four taken into custody here in connection with the killing of Mrs. Elizabeth Kitchens, 20, was burned at the stake. The lynching occurred at the scene of the murder and followed an alleged confession. The boy was tortured over a slow fire for fifteen minutes and then, shrieking with pain, was questioned concerning his accomplices. Atkins was said to have implicated another colored boy, but to have exonerated his own brother.

Members of the mob, comprising nearly 2,000 people, then raised the body again, fastened it to a pine tree with trace chains and relighted the fire. More than 200 shots were fired into the charred body. Then the mob started out on a search for the alleged accomplice.

Mrs. Kitchens, who served as a rural mail carrier, was robbed and murdered about four miles from Davisboro.

The Lincoln County News (Lincolnton, N. C.) dated May 22, 1922:


Confessed to Murder and robbery of Young White Woman—Took Her Automobile

Davidsboro, Ga., May 18—Following his confession that he robbed and murdered Mrs. William Ketchens, 22, rural mail carriel [sic] of this city, Charles Atkinson [sic], 15 year old negro boy, was burned at the stake at 6 o'clock tonight.

The lynching occurred at the scene of the murder, more than 2,000 persons from several counties witnessing or taking part, according to witnesses.

After being tortured with a slow fire for fifteen minutes, the mob loosed the trace chains that held Atkins to a pine tree and placed his seared body in the middle of the main highway. He was conscious crying in pain. The mob demanded to know if there were others connected with the murder.

Atkins, it was said, named John Henry Tarver, another negro boy whom he said was the only other person connected with it. He had previously connected his brother with the case.

Members of the mob raised his body again, fastened it to the pine tree, in an upright position, rekindled the fire at the base of the tree and then stood off giving those in the crowd opportunity to fire shots into the body.

Undertakers who obtained the body following the lynching say that more than 200 shots entered the charred body.

Immediately after completing the lynching the mob set out to find Tarver, determined on lynching him if he could be found.

The roads in this section were choked with automobiles, more than 300 cars being at the scene of the lynching.

Sheriff English, of Washington county, took possession of Gainer Atkins and his wife, father and stepmother of the lynched negro boy, and carried them to the county jail at Sandersville for safekeeping.

The mob made no effort to harm these negroes, however.

During the afternoon the mob that was determined to catch the negro who did the killing, whipped the Atkins boy sever[e]ly, several times, demanding the names of those who were implecated [sic] in the case. He said his brother, Slim, and John Henry Tarver were with him.

The negro said he shot Mrs. Ketchens, a bride of a month, with, a shotgun, determined to get possession of the woman's automobile and make a dream of the night before come true. He shot her as she stopped at a mail box at the roadside.

The dream, he said, was that he was to gain possession of a car.

Although the negro boy was large for his age, officers of Washington county believe that he had assistance, for the body of Mrs. Ketchens' was dragged fifty yards from the scene of the killing.

The mail sack was a hundred yards away, the contents having been removed.

The cash was kept in a cigar box, which the negro boy said he took home. It was found there.

After disposing of the body and the mail sack, Atkins said, he drove straight home. He said he told his father that his dream had come true, and then after changing his clothes he invited members of his family to ride with him. In the meantime he had smeared mud over the bloodstains of the automobile.

Sid Lewis, a farmer, passing the scene of the crime, found the body of Mrs. Ketchens thirty minutes after she had been shot. He heard the shooting, but had difficulty in locating the body.

Lewis telephoned this information to sheriff English at Sandersville and posses were quickly on the trail of the slayers. They soon found the automobile, Charlie Atkins being at the wheel.

Automobiles filled with excited men who went to the scene of the crime bristled with rifles and shotguns.

At a late hour tonight Tarver had not been located. The posses also were hunting another negro, George Clark, who is said to have been with Tarver this morning.

It was reported here at 11 o'clock that a mob of several hundred persons had located John Henry Tarver about six miles from here, along Stone creek.

Thank you for joining me and as always, I hope I leave you with something to ponder. 

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